Weddings in Tanzania

In being here for one year you have to experience all you can of Tanzania and the people and traditions. We had the opportunity to attend one of our nursing faculty son’s wedding. I must say they know how to celebrate. The ceremony is held in the afternoon at the church and then the reception was to start at 6 but one of our other colleagues said don’t even think about getting there until after 7. We were there from about 730 pm until 130AM and the party was still going

There were color themes and beautiful flowers.

Some told us that we should wear the theme of the wedding colors. But since we have very few formal wedding clothes we wore what we had. The reception was held in one of the downtown hotels and had lights and color decorations, rose flower arrangements on the tables. There were no seating arrangements but someone was nice enough to tell us where to sit so we were not in the family sections. There were groomsmen and maids of honor. The bride wore a wedding dress and and the groom a tux.

Families celebrated. The groom’s mother’s sisters all wore the same color dresses. There were talks by the bride and grooms parents, family members, friends and the couple themselves. Most of these then ended with a dance with that part of the family.

The groom’s parents giving a speech (our coworker Lucy) to the couple along with their other children
There was the cutting of the cake
The best man and maid of honor also did the cake eating as well as the bride and groom.
A difference was the best man and matron of honor (another nursing faculty) were friends of the groom’s mother so they felt they would be a good role model so chosen for this role.
Giving of the cake to the bride’s family by the groom

There was also where different groups went up and sort of bargained for a cake. Since this was all in Swahili we had to be told it was co-workers of the grooms mother turn. Needless to say we did not get the cake, nor did we get a piece of it. There was lots of alcohol and Champaign


There was much more entertainment than the U.S weddings; from the groomsman dance to the Sukuma tribe drummers and dancers. Then there was a group of 3 men who had Michael Jordon matching shirts and outfits and they did a kind of rap type dance. This and the traditional dance music which towards the end were songs played by Dolly Parton in English which we knew but most of the evening was in Swahili with the DJ so most of the time we did not really know what was going on.

There was a lot of dancing with different parts of each of the couples extended families and then friends.

Drummers, and grooms family dancing (Lucy our coworker) and her brother and sister

Groomsmen dancing
Groom dancing the Sukuma tribal dance

A Few Differences
The first difference is that when you are invited to the wedding you are asked to give money to pay for the wedding. So if you don’t contribute you do not go as they give you a card and you have to show it to get into the reception.

There was the giving of the cake away to various groups and at one point it was friends of the groom which we fell into that category went up. We did not get the cake and never did get any to eat but that was ok as we ate at 1230 and that was enough food. They did give us a broth soup when we arrived to tide us over for the first 4 hours. Then they started everyone with 2 drinks and just kept providing it.

The longest part of the evening was the gift giving when people went up with various kitchen, bedding and money. The nicest was the giving of Kangas or Katange materials to the bride. I’m assuming that this will be all that is needed for many years. It was quite the production of various groups giving different patterns of cloth and wrapping it around the mother of the groom, then the next group would give and do the same thing.

Gift giving by the groom’s mother’s family

So it was a great night to experience a Tanzanian wedding and tradition. It was also nice to share a happy occasion with our co-worker.

Disclaimer: This is a personal weblog. The thoughts and opinions here are those of Jennie Van Schyndel. The information does not in any way represent or reflect the opinions of the Peace Corps or Global Seed Health.